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Cultural & History

Soak in the lifestyle & history of Zanzibar

Zanzibar has two main islands, Unguja (Zanzibar island) and Pemba. Zanzibar is an autonomous part of Tanzania. Zanzibarians themselves are a mixture of these visitors and the native swahili people. This cultural hotpot is known for it’s spice farms and it’s Arabic influenced historical city, Stone Town. The history also contains a darker era, because Zanzibar used to be the biggest slave trader in East-Africa.

Tourist seeking culture & history have the main focus on Stone Town (a UNESCO world heritage site) and spice farms(visiting plantations of coconut and other spices grown on the island) Places to see are listed below

House of Wonders- The House of Wonders (or "Palace of Wonders", also known as "Beit-al-Ajaib"), in located on the Mizingani Road along the Stone Town seafront, and is probably the most well-known landmarks of Stone Town. It was built in 1883 and restored after the Anglo-Zanzibar War of 1896. Formerly the Sultan's residence, it became the seat of the Afro-Shirazi Party after the revolution. It was the first building in Zanzibar to have electricity as well as the first building in East Africa to have a lift. Since 2000, its interior has been dedicated to a museum on Swahili and Zanzibar culture.

Old Fort- The Old Fort ("Ngome Kongwe" in Swahili), adjacent to the House of Wonders, is a heavy stone fortress that was built in the 17th century by the Omanis. Also known as the Omani fort it was built by the early rulers to protect the city from European invasions. It has a roughly square shape and the internal courtyard is now a cultural centre with shops, workshops, and a small arena where live dance and music shows are held daily. The fort location is also used for the Zanzibar International Film Festival.

The Old Dispensary (or "Ithnashiri Dispensary")[10] was built from 1887 to 1894 by a wealthy Indian trader, to serve as a charity hospital for the poor but was later used as a dispensary. It is one of the most finely decorated buildings of Stone Town, with large carved wooden balconies, stained-glass windows, and neo-classical stucco adornments. After falling into decay in the 1970s and 1980s, the building was accurately restored by the AKTC.

Palace Museum- The Palace Museum (also known as the "Sultan's Palace", "Beit el-Sahel" in Arab) is another former sultan's palace, on the seafront, to the north of the House of Wonders.[22] It was built in late 19th century and now hosts a museum about the daily life of the Zanzibari royal family, including items that belonged to Sayyida Salme, a former Zanzibar princess who fled to relocate in Europe with her husband.

Slave Market- The Anglican cathedral of Christ Church, on Mkunazini Road, was built at the end of the 19th century by Edward Steere, third bishop of Zanzibar. The Cathedral was constructed in a large area at the centre of Stone Town that previously hosted the biggest slave market of Zanzibar; the place was deliberately chosen to celebrate the end of slavery, and the altar was in the exact spot where the main whipping post of the market used to be. A monument to the slaves, as well as a museum on the history of slavery, are besides the church.

Roman Catholic Cathedral- The Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Joseph was built by French missionaries between 1893 and 1897. The design of the church was based on that of the Marseille Cathedral, its façade, with two high spires, is one of the most well-known landmarks of Stone Town and can be seen from a distance when sailing into Stone Tone. The church is still operational today and holds regular mass on Sundays.

Forodhani Gardens- The Forodhani Gardens are a small park in the main sea walk of Stone Town, right in front of the Old Fort and the House of Wonders. The garden was recently restored for 3 million dollars by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. Every evening after sunset the gardens host a popular, tourist-oriented market selling grilled seafood and other Zanzibari recipes which attracts both tourists and locals.

Prison Island- Changuu Island (also known as Kibandiko, Prison or Quarantine Island) is a small island 5.6 km north-west of Stone Town, Unguja, Zanzibar. The island is around 800m long and 230m wide at its broadest point. The island saw use as a prison for rebellious slaves in 1860s and also functioned as a coral mine. The British First Minister of Zanzibar, Lloyd Mathews, purchased the island in 1893 and constructed a prison complex there. No prisoners were ever housed on the island and instead it became a quarantine station for yellow fever cases. The station was only occupied for around half of the year and the rest of the time it was a popular holiday destination. More recently, the island has become a government-owned tourist resort and houses a collection of endangered Aldabra giant tortoises which were originally a gift from the British governor of the Seychelles.

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